Pontine stroke is a type of stroke that happens when the blood flow in the brain stem is disrupted. The brain stem is responsible for breathing, heart function, digestion and alertness. Pontine stroke is very dangerous.

The brain stem in the human body helps in regulating the blood pressure, heartbeat and your breath. The brain stem also regulates your eye movement, swallowing, speech and hearing. A pontine stroke is a life threatening condition as it endangers the vital bodily functions. There are two types of pontine strokes including ischemic pontine stroke and hemorrhagic pontine stroke.

Causes of Pontine Stroke

Causes of Pontine Stroke

Health conditions like diabetes, atrial fibrillation, elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are the causes of pontine stroke. People with blood clots are more likely to experience pontine stroke. Smoking, alcohol use and consumption of a high percentage of processed food can also bring about pontine stroke.

Symptoms of Pontine Stroke

The symptoms of pontine stroke may include difficulty in breathing, difficulty in speaking, difficulty with swallowing and chewing, complete or partial loss of hearing, paralysis, weakness of the limbs, loss of sensation or numbness, blurred visionDizziness and vertigo are two of the most common pontine stroke symptoms. These two symptoms are however not necessarily accompanied by a weak feeling in one side of the body.

Tests to Diagnose Pontine Stroke

There are many tests which can be conducted to diagnose pontine stroke. A pontine stroke is a threatening condition and a medical emergency. Diagnosis of the condition can be sometimes difficult because the symptoms are more complex than other types of strokes. It is therefore very important to diagnose a pontine stroke as soon as possible in order to keep the danger under control. The patient's nervous system response should be assessed along with the heart function and the blood oxygen levels. A computerized scan is also done to check the blood vessels in the brain. Magnetic resonance imaging can also be done to the brain and the neck. Doppler ultrasound can also be done in case a torn or burs blood vessel is suspected to see whether all the blood vessels are intact and functioning well. Electrocardiogram can also be done in order to assess the heart functioning. Other diagnostic testing includes blood tests, liver function tests and kidney.

Treatment for Pontine Stroke

Treatment for pontine stroke can be more challenging due to the loss of more basic life functions. If the cause of the pontine stroke is blood clot (ischemic stroke) then the first step in treatment may involve dissolving the clot and then restoring the blood flow. Tissue plasminogen activators are some of the drugs used to dissolve the clot.

If the causes of the stroke are torn vessels or blood clots then medication for preventing clots in the future and to thin the blood can be given. Medicine can also be given for high blood pressure.

The causes for hemorrhagic pontine stroke in the brain are ruptured and burst blood vessels and the first line of treatment in this case involves stopping the bleeding first. Medicine can be given to control the blood pressure and medicines are also prescribed, which in the long run mitigate the effects of the bleeding in the brain stem. In case of an aneurysm then surgery is needed to stop the bleeding where the coil or the clip is then placed in order to stop the bleeding.

Recovery Period/Healing Time for Pontine Stroke

The recovery period or healing time for pontine stroke depends on the extent to which the condition was when it was diagnosed. The early it is diagnosed the quicker the patient will recover. Recovery period or healing time for pontine stroke also depends on the quality of medication the patient gets and also the diet and lifestyle changes. The pontine stroke patient will recover quicker if they heed the doctor's advice.

Survival Rate for Pontine Stroke

The survival rate for pontine stroke patient is higher if the stroke is ischemic. Life expectancy of people with Locked-in syndrome is about 10 years or more. It is therefore important for the patient to continue with medication and therapy for the entire life. Therapy by the physician is needed in order to regain the motor skills of the patient. Occupational therapy is required to help the pontine stroke patient with the daily tasks. Speech therapy can also be done to improve the pontine stroke patient to regain speech and regain control over swallowing. Survivors of pontine stroke are often left with severe disabilities. Counseling may also be needed in order to help the patient adjust to their new life.

Prevention of Pontine Stroke

It is better to prevent a disease than to treat it. The best way to prevent the pontine stroke is to avoid the risk factors. Women should avoid long-term hormone replacement therapy, especially those women that are above 35 years and they should also avoid smoking. Avoid smoking and sedentary lifestyle as it increases the risk of getting pontine stroke. Avoid alcohol and other drugs such as heroin, cocaine and many more as it increases the risk of pontine stroke.

Complications of Pontine Stroke

The complications of the pontine stroke are the same as other types of stroke including impaired breathing and loss of consciousness. Coma and Locked-in syndrome are also a serious complication of pontine stroke. Locked-in syndrome is a condition whereby the entire body except for the eye muscles become paralyzed. The patient retains the ability to communicate and think only through the movement of the eye. This may include blinking. Patients with this syndrome need a gastric tube, catheter and tracheotomy to help them with the normal function of the body. The use of the eye movements helps to establish communication with the patient. This may include blinking. Approximately 1 percent of stroke patients suffer from psychosis in the form of hallucinations and delusions.

Prognosis/Outlook for Pontine Stroke

The outlook or prognosis majorly depends on the time it takes to diagnose the condition. The sooner the treatment is carried out, the better the prognosis for pontine stroke. If blood flow to the brain stem is restored within a few hours then the options for treatment are more and the chance of the full recovery for the patient is high.

Lifestyle Changes for Pontine Stroke

For one to have a decent life after getting the pontine stroke then they must change their lifestyle. The patient should avoid smoking and use of alcohol. Other drugs such as heroin and cocaine should also be avoided. The patient should also seek advice and counseling from a psychologist and also do some regular exercises to improve the blood circulation. The patient should go for regular health checkups.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: April 21, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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